The Red Sox add prospects to their available player pool.
Several of the top prospects in the Boston Red Sox farm system have been added to the 60-man pool of eligible players for the 2020 season.
According to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo, the list is headlined by Jeter Downs. The 21-year-old infielder who was acquired in the Mookie Betts trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers is the top prospect in the organization and ranked No. 44 in baseball by MLB.com.
Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports that Jay Groome, Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, and Bryan Mata have also been added to the player pool. Along with Downs, these prospects will join the group training at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket.
Each of these new additions ranks among the top 10 in the Red Sox system. No. 3 prospect Bobby Dalbec was already included in the player pool, so six of the top 10 are now eligible to play in 2020. The exceptions, including No. 2 prospect Triston Casas, have never played above A-ball.
Groome made it only as far as Single-A Greenville before Tommy John surgery wiped out his entire 2018 season. He’s made only five starts split between the Gulf Coast League and the short season Lowell Spinners since returning to the mound at the end of last season.
The former first-round pick has a long road ahead of him before he’s major league ready but he made the cut anyway. Groome is entering his fifth season since he was selected 12th overall in the 2016 draft. The Red Sox are running out of time to evaluate him before they need to decide whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Groome has too much upside to give up on but he needs an opportunity to develop, which is why he joins the player pool despite having essentially zero chance of playing in the majors this year.
Being added to the player pool doesn’t necessarily mean any of these other prospects will get their first taste of the big leagues this year. As anxious as many fans are to get a glimpse of Downs, the top prospect has never played above Double-A. Xander Bogaerts has the shortstop position locked down and the Red Sox have several versatile infielders they can rotate through second base. Without a clear path to playing time, there’s no need to rush Downs.
Duran reached Double-A for the first time last year but he’s two years older than Downs and has 82 games of experience at that level compared to only 12 for Downs. The five-tool talent could have cracked the major league roster this year in a full season. There will be fewer opportunities available on a 60-game schedule but Duran was a wise addition to the player pool considering the lack of outfield depth in the Red Sox system.
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Mata is the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization but also hasn’t advanced beyond Double-A yet. Boston’s thin pitching depth presents a greater need for a talented prospect but there’s risk in throwing a young pitcher into the fire before they are ready. If we see Mata in the majors this year it will likely be as a reliever.
Houck is the more likely candidate to reach the majors this year. His ceiling isn’t nearly as high but he gained experience at Triple-A last season, posting a 3.24 ERA in 16 games (2 starts). Boston is struggling to find enough viable starters to fill their rotation. If injuries strike or the underwhelming options at the back of the rotation falter, Houck could see some spot starts this year.
Even if none of these prospects make it to Fenway this year, there are benefits to being added to the player pool. Joining the prospects in Pawtucket allows them to continue their development in the wake of the cancelled minor league season. Getting even a brief call up to the majors to get their feet wet could further that development.
Simply sitting on the bench to learn from the veterans would be a beneficial experience. With no minor league games for them to play in, there’s little to lose by giving them that opportunity if a roster spot opens up. Adding prospects to the player pool doesn’t guarantee them time in the majors this year but it gives the Red Sox the flexibility to call them up later in the season.